British History: More Evolutionary Than Revolutionary

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British history is more evolutionary than revolutionary

Evolution and revolution being very similar, I will properly define what is an evolution and the differences it has with a revolution. An evolution is a global movement that changes the way things are and does so step by step, whereas a revolution can be led by a small group of people with the aim of abrupt, disruptive changes.

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British history being quite long and filled with events we will focus on two key moments: the Glorious Revolution (also known as the Bloodless Revolution) and the Industrial Revolution.

The Glorious Revolution took place from 1688 to 1689 and led to the adoption of a constitutional monarchy as the british political system. It opposed king James the II, catholic, to William of Orange, dutch and protestant. King James the II was trying to put in place a regime were catholics would be favored and tried to dissolve Parliament in order to get a new one, devoted to him and his cause. This did not do well with James’s peers as some of them wrote a letter pledging allegiance to William if he invaded Britain. William already being in the midst of preparations to invade England this letter was only a further motive to do so. James, seeing that many more of his peers were joining William’s side, avoided conflict and fled to France and the shelter of his catholic cousin, Louis the XIV. William ended up becoming the new king of England, bending to the Parliament’s wishes more than any king before.1

1: accessed 08/09/2019

The Parliament’s wishes took the shape of the Declaration of Rights wich became known as the Bill of Rights. This bill put in place many constitutional principles and thus shifted the balance of power. In this case I would say that this is more of an evolution than a revolution. The protestants being the majority it is a global movement and one could see the Bill of Rights as the next step in limiting the royal power after the Magna Carta and the logical evolution after having had kings that were considered tyrants. It would have been a revolution if King James had succeeded in putting in place a catholic regime, causing an abrupt change led by a small group of people.

The Industrial Revolution marks a period of time stretching between 1760 and 1840. It is the process that allowed to pass from an economy based on agriculture to an economy based on industry.

Concerning the Industrial Revolution there are two school of thoughts.

Some historians think that the Industrial Revolution is a revolution, arguing that one industry developed immensely and because of it’s necessities, ended up bringing the whole economy up with it. This industry is the cotton industry. The demand for cotton having raised, this spurred investments that lead to inventions that lead to better efficiency. This dynamised some sectors such as iron, transports and developed new cities, linked to the cotton farms. This would then be a revolution: over a rather short period of time some brutal changes appeared and all of this happened because of a small group leading the economy.

The other group of historians argues that the Industrial Revolution is an evolution, that there is not one industry pullling the whole economy but many industries mutually helping themselves grow by creating more demand and creating more means to meet this demand.

E.g: the iron industry allows more steam engines to be created, thus obtaining better industry production. This production can go towards many industries, like the railway industry wich will in turn allow iron ore to be more easily transported wich in turn increases productivity. 2

In my opinion the Industrial Revolution was an evolution and a revolution. An evolution in the way that it came to happen, meaning that it was brought along by different actors and didn’t come as an abrupt change. What it brought along though, is a revolution. The rapid growth of the economy and the acceleration of the industry caused many abrupt changes, in society, in the landscape of the cities and in the opportunities one has.

To sum up I think that british history is more evolutionary then revolutionary. They have created change with and for the people. The history of the Parliament is a great example of that.

2: accessed 08/09/2019    


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